Council boss makes pledge over South Tyneside’s children’s services

Rachel McVey and Kevin Doran (front right) with Coun Atkinson (centre) and breastfeeding support workers Jan Carmichael, Michelle Smith and student midwife Jessica Rivers.
Rachel McVey and Kevin Doran (front right) with Coun Atkinson (centre) and breastfeeding support workers Jan Carmichael, Michelle Smith and student midwife Jessica Rivers.

Your comments on our stories get things done. Gazette readers had plenty to say about children’s services in the borough’s – and South Tyneside Council bosses have been listening.

Today, Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families at South Tyneside Council, outlines the council’s plans.

Coun Joan Atkinson with Joanne Wollum and daughter Jessie

Coun Joan Atkinson with Joanne Wollum and daughter Jessie

Investment in children’s centres in South Tyneside is playing a key role in giving youngsters in South Tyneside the best start in life.

South Tyneside has maintained all 12 of its centres despite more than 500 such centres across England closing since 2010.

The centres offer a wide range of activities for families from play and stay sessions and advice on baby weaning and parenting to help with quitting smoking.

Parents and carers can even access training while their little ones attend the day care which is on site.

Lead Member for Children, Young People and Families, Coun Joan Atkinson, visited Boldon Children’s Centre to see the direct impact the work is having on families.

She said: “Despite being one of the hardest hit councils in the country, we remain committed to our mission of giving every child in South Tyneside the best start in life.

“We recognise that it is in the early years that the building blocks for a successful future are laid. It is only by working in close partnership with families and carers that a child’s potential can by truly realised and that is why children’s centres are so important.”

Parent Joanne Wollum, 34, of West Boldon has nothing but praise for the centre.

She accessed some training at the centre while her daughter Jessie went to day care. She now hopes to complete her training at Sunderland College and become a nursery nurse.

She said: “I would be completely lost without this children’s centre. It has changed my life for the better and the improvement in Jessie has been incredible.

“I know money is tight for local councils but keeping children’s centres open is definitely the right decision.”

Mum-to-be Rachel McVey visited the centre for a breast-feeding workshop and was amazed at the range of activities and advice on offer.

Rachel, 27, of Marsden, South Shields, said: “I have been very surprised to see how much support is available. I’m sure we’ll use our local Horsley Hill Children’s Centre in the future once our baby arrives.”

Her partner Kevin Doran, who is a lifeguard at Hebburn Central, added: “The class has been excellent and very informative. It’s good to know that so much support is there for us as first time parents.”

All day care nurseries within children’s centre settings in the borough has been rated “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted and the council was rated “good” by Ofsted for its children’s services.